Good content marketing should raise awareness, increase conversion, or boost customer loyalty.
Great content marketing can do all three at once.
Enter the video documentary, a unique form of video content marketing that has recently seen a surge in popularity.
Its focus is on valuable, affecting, storytelling-driven video content that piques the target audience’s interest by giving them an in-depth look at a topic they may never have considered before (just like any good documentary).
Except these documentaries are paid for and produced by companies as part of their content marketing strategy. They toe an interesting line between remaining honest and truthful while also indirectly promoting brand values.
And the best of them work remarkably well, because they follow some key principles.
Here’s our pick of 6 breathtaking video documentaries, plus the rules they stick to that make them such effective and unique pieces of video content marketing.
6 Documentaries used in Video Marketing to Reinforce Brand Values… and the Rules they Follow to Work so Well
1. Stella Artois — Tell a Simple Story
When the iconic beer brand decided to paint an intricate series of wall murals in New York representing each stage of a 9-step Stella Artois “pouring ritual”, they saw the opportunity to tell an affecting story about the wall-painters themselves.
It might not sound like the most exciting or revolutionary of topics. But Stella Artois believed in the skill and passion of their subjects, and the end result is a poignant look at a unique and dying art.
Because the company understood the value and interest of their video documentary, they knew their target audience would engage with and appreciate it. The video also embodies their core values of craftsmanship and attention to detail, as well as reinforcing how the brand cooperates with and supports local communities.
All this goes to show that you don’t need a thrilling life-or-death topic to create an engaging, emotional piece of video content marketing. With a video documentary you can take simple everyday stories that you believe in, tell them well, and in the process create a valuable piece of video content that will help you achieve your content marketing aims.
2. Patagonia — Be Unashamedly Honest
All great documentaries, although essentially an artistic representation of the world around us, also express truths. They are honest. Patagonia’s epic, gorgeous documentary begins with its founder explaining his love of mountaineering and how he turned that passion into an outdoor clothing business.
From there, the video tells eight more stories about various other Patagonia customers and how they have used their clothing, often for years on end.
The documentary never tries to be something it’s not; it just gives an honest portrayal of ordinary lives. And in doing so, it highlights both the values of the company — wholesome enjoyments, environmental accountability, dedication to the best clothes possible — and the quality and durability of their products.
Rather than creating a video documentary that encourages viewers to purchase, Patagonia’s message is: “Don’t buy more than you need. Celebrate the stuff you already own.” They remain faithful to their brand by telling a true story that embraces their values and provides a valuable experience to its target audience. That’s what makes a successful piece of content marketing.
3. Intel — Understand your Audience
We’ve mentioned target audiences enough already. It’s not just empty talk. To create an effective documentary as part of your content marketing, you must first consider your audience — just as Intel did in their short video about Scott Schuman, the man behind fashion blog The Sartorialist.
The documentary focuses on Schuman’s day-to-day life, as he wanders city streets looking for fashion inspiration and subjects to photograph. Although the link to Intel is gentle, there is a theme of technology bringing people’s passion to life present throughout the video.
Not only is Schuman a popular figure well-known and well-liked by Intel’s target audience for this piece of video content (bloggers, photographers, and others who use computers creatively), but his is a story of how modern technology can transform lives and allow for great personal expression, purpose and creativity.
As part of Intel’s broader “Visual Life” content marketing campaign, the video documentary explores how Intel processors have become an essential component of our lives. It succeeds on that front, by understanding its audience and how they interact with its products each and every day.
4. Fixodent — Be Creative and Different
Successful content marketing shouldn’t mean producing the same thing as everybody else. To create valuable content that people want to watch, you have to provide something different — a new story or a creative spin that your audience hasn’t seen before. Fixodent did this brilliantly.
As a brand behind denture adhesives, you might think Fixodent has nothing particularly exciting to add to the video content marketing sphere. But they embraced a creative approach and filmed a video documentary about Aslan, a rare white lion in a wildlife sanctuary who required dental surgery after losing several teeth (whose procedure they also sponsored).
It’s a great piece of lateral thinking. Not only is the story compelling because it deals with wild beasts, but it also perfectly illustrates the massive impact dental health can have on a life, whether animal or human.
Everybody has seen adverts about the difference good dentures can make. But by focusing on the restlessness and depression Aslan felt with broken teeth, Fixodent shone a new light on the importance of our teeth for all of us. This video documentary reinforces the purpose behind the brand while telling a creative, engaging story tailored to their audience.
5. CMI — Lean on Your Expertise
Every business is good at something different. When it comes to making a documentary, it pays to hone in on your specific area of expertise. By playing to your strengths you’ll have enough authority for your video to appear legitimate and trustworthy — which is why the Content Marketing Institute decided to create a short film all about content marketing.
Here the CMI call on a dazzling array of experts and influencers to talk about what content marketing means to them and how it has evolved over the years. In nearly 45 minutes this documentary covers everything from the very start of the practice to where it is today.
Why does this film really succeed? It goes far beyond the surface, offering an in-depth look at a subject with enough little-known facts to surprise even the most experienced content marketer. Stories of some of the most famous and successful content marketing examples of all time are woven into the narrative, including the first soap operas, John Deere’s The Furrow and the YouTube sensation “Will it Blend?”.
A deep well of expert knowledge is used to wonderful effect here to broach history, economics, and even the philosophical question of where content marketing is going in the future. The whole thing positions the CMI as an industry leader that absolutely knows their stuff.
6. Netscout — Let the Professionals Do Their Job
Netscout is a provider of network performance management, which means they help businesses run more securely and efficiently in a digital world. They hired legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog to create a documentary about how the internet has transformed all of our lives.
Above is just a trailer: the full documentary is feature-length, at over an hour and a half long. But it gives you a sense of the skill and deft with which this film is put together and the broad range of individuals, situations and technologies it covers in its quest to get to the heart of the internet.
The video documentary works because Herzog was given pretty much full editorial rein over how it came together. It’s an important lesson for all brands looking to dip their toe into this kind of content marketing: don’t be too precious about control. Know what topics you’d like to cover and the kind of values you’d like reflected in the work, but also allow your creatives enough freedom to do their job properly.
A successful documentary needs a strong narrative and an overall vision. That’s what Herzog brought to the table here, and it’s what you’ll need if you’re looking to integrate value- and story-focused films like this into your own marketing.
Round-up: Show What Your Brand Stands For with Video Documentaries
Those were 6 effective video documentaries used expertly as quality pieces of content marketing.
Whether they’re used to attract the attention of new potential customers or remind your existing ones why they love you in the first place, documentaries like this are an excellent way to engage your audience with something new and exciting that communicates your brand values — without being too in-your-face about it.
You’ll also need to think about how to transition from this type of content to more explicitly discussing your product, service or brand further along in the buyer’s journey. That’s the next step: creating an effective video strategy full of valuable content at every stage of the marketing funnel.
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